Like many of us, every year I’m left breathless and surprised by the coming of September – new season, new term, new beginnings, and end of the August relaxation. This year has definitely been no exception. As well as all the usual fresh starts, September 2016 has seen both Sandy and Justin beginning their ordination training, which for me means new responsibilities as their supervisor, a task made particularly interesting (in the old Chinese sense) by the fact that they are each following a very different course with different requirements and expectations. So far I have spent a day in London at St Mellitus College discovering its expectations of Sandy, of me, and of us, as a parish providing her with ministry experience alongside their academic input. And I have had a similar but shorter meeting in Guildford about Justin’s course, as well as some really interesting discussion for his first assignment about our policy and practice on baptism. I’m definitely looking forward to this aspect of the next three years – the opportunity to revisit with our ordinands some of the things I learnt in my own training, and to hear from them about new developments in theology and ministry. And I’m sure all that they learn and need to practise will give the whole parish the chance to grow and explore new possibilities – it’s really very exciting.
September also brought a crescendo of activity (or should that be an incandescence?) as St Bart’s was reopened after the wiring and lighting project. Many thanks again to everyone who came over the scant two days we had available to clean and replace and polish and reorder between the electricians moving out and the wedding on 24 September. And special thanks to Dorothea and Roscelyn, who masterminded the return. I’m absolutely delighted by the way the church looks now – the lighting is warm and beautiful, drawing the eye to the chancel and sanctuary, hitherto just a bit dim and dull, and every surface gleams with polish and elbow grease. Not to mention the reassurance of knowing that the wiring is safe and resilient for years to come.
The project was paid for out of legacies generously left to the parish by past parishioners. If you are thinking of leaving the church something in your will, or have already done so, may I ask you to check the wording of the clause with me or one of the wardens? It may be – judging by experience – that this has inadvertently restricted the way your gift can be used. This is one of the reasons we are looking for someone to act as Legacies Officer for the parish – if this sounds like a role for you please do contact me for more details.
That was September – edited highlights at any rate. What of October? We are following Harvest Festival with a Stewardship Campaign, launching on Sunday 2 October with a sermon and leaflet explaining how our parish finances work and why, although money is available for capital projects, our general fund is in a worryingly depleted state. It’s 18 months since our last stewardship season and during that time our income from giving has dropped, not keeping pace with our expenditure, most of which is fixed. As many of you know, parishes get no financial assistance from the diocese or the national church – in fact, we contribute a significant proportion of our income to the diocese, some of which pays for me and my housing with some going into diocesan funds to support their work. What this means is that the parish depends on you, its members, for the resources to continue our mission and ministry, including maintaining our buildings and services, supporting Chuks’ ministry, keeping the office running, and indeed the small percentage of our income that we give away each year to local, national and international good causes. More information about this is to come: in church, in a leaflet, in forms to set up regular giving and on the website. Please do give prayer and thought to the part your giving plays in the life of our parish, and consider if God is asking you to do more, or even to begin doing something…. “Freely you have received: freely give….”
Finally, thank you to everyone for your sympathy over the death in August of Rachel, the senior Rectory cat. She is much missed, especially her particular talent for putting wedding couples at their ease (they tend to arrive fearful of difficult questions about God and sex, but Rachel’s attentions were a great distraction). Thank you too for your ongoing concern about brown Burmese Dizzy, who apparently didn’t fancy a life of ministry and took off after a week – now missing for three weeks. But I do hope to have a positive cat story for the next issue – perhaps with photos, if the editor will allow me!
In the meantime, you have, as always, the assurance of my prayers.